Is there anything more comforting than good, traditional Italian food? Pasta isn't just an easy, standby meal - it can be a treat with just a bit of effort. I like to fit some protein into my pasta meals, and what better way to do it than with meatballs? Now there's nothing wrong with a standard, run of the mill meatball - but this week, I was looking for a way to take things up a notch. I pawed through the kitchen for something interesting to add, and realized that we had some goat cheese. Inspiration!
At first, I considered trying to stuff each meatball with a cheesy center, but there wasn't enough goat cheese for that. Still, it worked fantastically well crumbled up and added right to the mixture. The whole meal took on that earthy flavor, and most bites were punctuated by a touch of creamy, fluffy cheese. It was really a nice spin on a meatball, and one that I think I'll make again in the future.
Our meatball ingredients are more or less what you'd expect. No fancy beef/pork/sausage mixtures here - I just stick to ground beef, mixed with eggs, breadcrumbs, milk, onion, and good Italian seasonings like Thyme, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Garlic, and a bit of Coriander. The goat cheese adds some interest. And, of course, you'll need some pasta to serve it over and plenty of sauce for simmering.
Meatballs are pleasantly straightforward. Step one: combine everything but the cheese. You'll have to dice the onion first, of course, but everything else can be more or less dumped into a large mixing bowl and mashed together. Use your hands to mix it up well, don't be a chicken. If it's too wet, add some more breadcrumbs. If too dry, a bit more milk.
Now crumble up your goat cheese into pieces small enough to distribute well through the meatballs. I aimed for roughly pea-sized, with some ranging slightly larger and smaller according to the whims of the cheese.
Combine the cheese with the rest of the mixture, again by hand. Mix gently, as you don't want to pulverize the cheese. The whole point is to have nice, cheesy bites, so you need those chunks to be relatively intact.
It's time: shape that mixture into some actual meatballs! You can use an ice-cream scoop if you like, but I prefer to keep going by hand, aiming for 1 1/2 to 2 inches per meatball. This recipe will make a lot of them.
Now into the sauce! Most meatball recipes have you fry the meatballs first, but that's really not my preferred method. They tend to cook unevenly or dry out that way. Simmered in the sauce, they'll cook evenly and stay moist. Perhaps best of all, they'll also lend a fantastic meatiness to the sauce itself.
After about 25 or 30 minutes, your meatballs will be cooked and your sauce will be transformed. Even the jarred sauce that I used for this meal took on a much different texture and a really pleasant heartiness from the meat and cheese simmered into it.
The one real downside of cooking your meatballs in the sauce is that it makes it nigh impossible to finish the pasta itself in a pan with sauce, as is ideal. This, however, is not the end of the world. You'll be too busy devouring meatballs to really notice.
And that's it! Serve hot over your pasta of choice. Garlic bread would not go amiss as an accompaniment.
Recipe: Goat Cheese Meatballs
Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 30 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 10-12
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs Ground Beef
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Onion, diced
- 4 oz. Goat Cheese
- 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (pref. Panko)
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 1 box Pasta
- 1 family-size or 2 large jars Pasta Sauce
- 2 tsp Oregano
- 2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Rosemary
- 1 tsp Basil
- 1 tsp Thyme
- 1/2 tsp Coriander
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Simmer pasta sauce in a large pot over medium-low heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, diced onion, milk, breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings. Mix well by hand.
Crumble goat-cheese into pea-sized pieces. Incorporate gently into beef mixture.
Shape mixture into 1 1/2 to 2 inch balls. Add to simmering sauce.
Cook meatballs 25-30 minutes in sauce.
Serve hot over pasta. Top with Parmesan Cheese to taste.